As social media evolves, it's normal that the channels and platforms evolve, too. Some continue to grow in popularity, while others dwindle.
One thing is for certain: The Internet is not a fad. This new media is not going away. And, as it continues to grow in popularity, it's important to also accept that social media is not a fad. Yes, some of the platforms have becomes less popular (Friendster, MySpace and Second Life), but then again, maybe they have returned to a more realistic state of stability. Maybe these platforms were never meant to compete with the raw numbers of television viewership. Perhaps not every platform and channel should be benchmarked against Facebook and its 500 million-plus users. Maybe MySpace is doing right now what it does best: serving entertainment professionals and wannabes with a place to connect.
What about the future of blogs and blogging?
Last week, eMarketer released a new report titled, The Blogosphere - Colliding With Social And Mainstream Media, written by Paul Verna. If you think about the advent of social media, blogging really was the first pin to drop. The ability for anybody to have a thought, be able to type it up and then publish it online for the world to see (for free) changed everything we know about publishing, journalism and the media. Along with the publishing component, the ability to subscribe to the content via RSS, and have the ability to comment on it publicly, link back to it or even start your own blog was a watershed moment in the history of humanity and evolution of publishing. Some equate it with the advent of the printing press, while many in traditional print media wrote it off in an attempt to maintain their own credibility and professionalism. As blogging took hold, the ability to publish in images, audio and video pushed social media into many different directions and - as with all things - the content that was easiest to produce and publish (like snapping a picture or shooting a quick video) replaced the not-so-easy task of putting your thoughts into words. Blogging was always hard, because writing is hard. Everyone is not a writer. Everyone is not a blogger.
Nothing has changed ... but everything has changed.
"Despite the success of other social media venues such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, blog readership has increased steadily and is expected to continue on an upward path,'' the Blogosphere report says. ''Just over half of U.S. Internet users are now reading blogs at least once a month, and this percentage will climb to 60 per cent in the next four years. The main drivers behind these increases are the prevalence of blogs in the mainstream media, the increased use of blogs for corporate marketing and easy-to-use personal blogging platforms." It's interesting to note that the true growth of blogging is not coming from individuals using this empowered publishing platform to share their insights with the world. The credibility and growth from blogs moving forward seems to be coming from the mainstream media's desire to have a cheaper, faster and near-real-time platform to distribute their content.
Blogs are (and will become) a mainstream media platform.
In February 2006, I wrote a blog post titled, A Blog Is Like Lemmy From Motorhead. The point of it? I wrote: "A blog is the glory of a personal voice - warts and all. That is why people are gravitating toward them. Deep down, we want companies to speak our language. We're tired of jargon. We're zoning out when we hear phrases like 'best of breed' or 'end to end solution.' We want to know that business cares about us and treasures our loyalty. We want more... and we're starting with a conversation that has a human voice behind it ... warts and all."
That world is quickly leaving us as blogs become almost indecipherable from a mass media news website.
The Blogosphere report goes on to say: "The number of blog creators is also expected to climb, though not as steeply as that of blog readers. For many people, the appeal of blogging is not as intense as it was when blogs were the leading form of social media. Today, people have many other social tools at their disposal, and some of them are more fun and less labour-intensive than blogs. Facebook offers most of the capabilities of blogs; users post frequent updates that can include photos, videos and links. To give an idea of how blogging stacks up against social network usage, there will be 26 million bloggers in the U.S. by the end of 2010 compared with about 150 million Facebook users. ...Nevertheless, overall blogging rates will inch upward. The biggest factors driving the increase are the ease of use of blogging platforms and the growing comfort level with blog reading among U.S. Internet users. Blogs with broad reach - whether media blogs, corporate blogs or influential technology or celebrity blogs - are creating a culture in which blogging is accepted as an integral part of the media landscape."
From a personal journaling platform in 1997 to a full-on publishing platform, the transformation of blogs over the past few years can be best summed up in one word: astounding.
It's a profound shift in how we write, read, contribute and distribute the published word. Blogs are no longer the black sheep of publishing. They have quickly become as important as the printed word. "The New York Times operates at least 50 public-facing blogs," the Blogosphere report says. "These blogs are intertwined with the paper's regular coverage. Readers are routinely redirected from the main site to the blogs and back again. There is a near total fluidity between the traditional coverage and the blog posts."
So, in some strange, ironic way, the future of blogging lies in its ability to act like and augment the most traditional types of the printed word.
The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business - Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:
- Montreal Gazette - Blogging marks profound shift in how we read and write the published word.
- Vancouver Sun - Blogging continues to grow with its place in publishing secured.